University is young, but it's growing fast

Updated: 2016-07-28 09:03

By Zhao Xinying(China Daily)

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University is young, but it's growing fast

Philip Connelly

Wenzhou-Kean University has just graduated its first class, which made Philip Connelly, executive vice-chancellor, very proud.

The first cohort did very well, Connelly said, and two-thirds of the group of 187 chose to continue their graduate studies overseas, with some being accepted by excellent schools, including Columbia University in New York City and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

"It was overwhelming as I sat on the platform, watching the students I met when they first came four years ago," Connelly said, recalling the first commencement held in late May.

"I was really in awe of the chance the students took," he said, referring to their applications to the young school with little idea of what the future would hold.

Officially established in 2014 by Wenzhou University in Zhejiang province and Kean University in the United States, the joint venture is a youngster among the seven Western-style schools currently operating in China.

Recruitment started in 2012, before the official launch. Construction of the campus, which is expected to cover 200 hectares, is still ongoing.

To accelerate approval, development and management of the university, Connelly has paid visits between US and China as many as 35 times since 2005. He said that many Chinese education officials he talked to thought the venture was an effort to change the Chinese education system.

"But every single time I had the opportunity, I said, 'No-what we are trying to do is to introduce a very different way of learning into China'. "

Holger Henke, vice-chancellor in charge of academic affairs at Wenzhou-Kean, said the university has three competitive advantages. Apart from its all-English environment and an international atmosphere, original curriculum introduced from the US, along with American approaches to teaching, are of great appeal to applicants.

Henke said the curriculum, together with the pedagogy, are used to help students become critical thinkers, lifelong learners and people with the ability to do research, collect information and evaluate the quality of that information.

In the last year or two, the university has enrolled students who scored fairly high on the gaokao, the national college entrance exam, which "is an indication that students and their parents are recognizing our strengths and seeing the value in coming to this China-US cooperative institution", Henke said.

The university currently has about 1,600 students. The 2020 goal is 3,500.

"We will have a bigger proportion of international students," Henke said. "That will help us create a more English language feeling on campus."